You have seen a number of class sessions over the years; either you conducted them yourself, or you witnessed others conducting them. Each one falls into one of three categories: the good, the bad, and the uh—what was that?
It does not matter if you’ve taught for a number of decades, a number of years, or just a matter of months, there’s always room to evaluate, fine tune, and perfect your presentation and teaching style. Here are five tips for taking what you already do well and cranking it up, making your class presentations not only something you, as an instructor, enjoy but also something that will cause students to sit up and take notice:
1. Decide who you will be! Will you fascinate your students? Inspire them? Energize them? Determine which of these types of presenters you’ll be for your students and then operate accordingly. If you choose to fascinate, then share with them what makes the course content fascinating. Why do you find it fascinating? Inspire them to stretch beyond their comfort zones. Energize them in a way that makes them want to take action, to do something differently, to move others to action.
2. Move them verbally and nonverbally! Avoid the Charlie Brown teacher effect; that is, avoid speaking at only one tone and one rate throughout an entire class session. You’re giving a performance that should be filled with plenty of eye contact, appropriate body language, varied vocal tones and inflections, and excitement all of which are dependent upon what you want to convey to students.
3. You are the opening act! As well as the main act and the closing act! Adults will listen to you for one reason and one reason only, and that’s because they know WHY they should listen to you. Make this clear through an attention-getting opening statement at the start of each class because let’s face it; although a lesson on comma usage may get a writing instructor all giddy, for example, it likely does little for the average college student. However, if the instructor begins the lesson with something to the effect of “By the end of today’s class, you will know how to fix or altogether avoid some of the most common punctuation mistakes, thereby, making your writing sound and appear more confident and clearer,” then a student immediately thinks “Hey now! I’m ready!”
4. Make lectures a conversation! When we lecture, we tend to offer statements of fact and little else, pausing from time to time to ask, “Are there any questions?” Instead, make it a fascinating, inspirational, or energizing conversation. Take some of those statements of fact, turn them into questions, pose them to the class, and get feedback. Remember students learn more when they talk.
5. Close in a meaningful way! Audiences remember the beginning and the ending of a performance, and sadly, not much else – that is unless you’ve fascinated, inspired, or energized them during the lesson! Make the closing as important as the rest of class, allowing enough time for a recap and Q&A, checking to find out what they learned and how they plan to use it.
Recall one of the best learning experiences you ever had—whether it was your dad teaching you to tie a tie or your grandmother showing you how to bake her famous pecan pie. What made the experience so effective, so memorable? What did the “teacher” do that resonated with you? Was he patient? Were mistakes allowed? Did she encourage you to get hands-on? Allow for questions? Remember what an amazing teacher did and how he/she did it, and then return the favor: Create just as an impactful style for you and your students.
Bridgett McGowen-Hawkins is a Senior Consultant with Cengage Learning’s TeamUP Faculty Programs and teaches for the Associate’s Program at the University of Phoenix.
Do you have any suggestions for stellar presentations? Share them in the Comments section.